life is a sentence

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25

today is supposed to be my dear friend roobee’s 45th birthday.  but we all stopped counting at 43, because she died almost two years ago after a fatal seizure.  last week my nephew Banjo, who is in his early twenties, passed on due to a lingering illness.  and just this week, my son’s former schoolmate and good friend, Kent, suddenly died in iligan because of a car accident.  he was still in his teens. 

in daddy’s case when he battled the big C,  he was given an estimated time when he was expected to die.  but nobody could really tell. he too, could have figured in an accident long before that.  then the doctors’ estimate would have been a gross mistake. and our family, unprepared and devastated. or there could have been a miracle, when the mistake would be most welcomed.

it is unbelievable when death cheats his way and no one else is looking.  it leaves everyone stunned and numb. unable to comprehend what is going on.  long after we moved on, the sadness lingers. 

at school, we were taught that “a sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete idea and includes a subject and a verb“.  in life we learn that it is. 

life is a sentence.

life is sentence whose subject is us.  and the verb, what we do with “us”.

 “a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.”

our life begins with a loud cry.  and when it ends, only God knows.   but certainly, it will.

life usually ends with a period.  this is when life ends how and when most expects it to end – live a full life, die naturally and happily at old age.

life sometimes end with a question mark.  when someone who is young and full of dreams gets sick and die, we often ask what if and what could have been.

life, on rare occasions, end with a punctuation mark. we all get this shock and disbelief when one dies from an accident, a crime or a suicide.

in between, we may pause with a comma or a semi-colon, to give order to our compound or complex lives.

and when we finally reunite with our Creator, our sentences end with a . . .

for with the Lord is unending joy and love.

but for us who are still under construction, let us always be thankful for all the other sentences that we connect with, whether the past, present or future tense.

together and in harmony, we could create a paragraph or a novel even.  a love story that would highlight God’s glory in all our lives. and punctuate it with  : )

why hurry? (choosing life over death)

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:6-8

this morning as we start our day with breakfast and news, CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported how children died from diseases which could have been prevented if their parents gave them due medical attention. but because of a literary misinterpretation of a scripture passage, the followers of this certain congregation believes that drops of olive oil and prayers were enough to heal their sick. 

a related subject also tackled how doctors would want to be spared from being prosecuted and sentenced to secondary manslaughter, if their terminally ill patients chose to overdose from the drugs they prescribed, in the premise that they did not end lives, but only the suffering.

still another HIV positive patient who suffers from hepatitis reiterates his right to die without prolonging the suffering that his illness would eventually bring about.  and this, they all believe is to die with dignity.

this reality disturbed me because i believe otherwise.  who are we to choose the exact time and date, or in which way we are to die?  even Jesus, who is the Son of God, did not.  instead He obeyed the will of the Father until the end.  He could have chosen not to be crucified.  He is God anyway.  but He did not.  did that make His death less dignified?

my daddy died of cancer.  he was in pain all throughout the ordeal.  he fought and suffered too.  but that did not make his death any less dignified.

my aunt had brain surgery.  thereafter, she depended on life support to survive.  my uncle and cousins did not stop to seek only the best medical care for her.  but she died anyway.  that did not make her death less dignified too.

one may be diagnosed with life-threatening disease and be given only a year to live by the doctors.  but a car may run over him the same day and die on the spot.  who can tell?

so please,  if you are one of those who feel hopeless and desperate because of your pain and suffering, and you wish to end it all now, or sooner, please stop and think again. 

 

please just stop and look at the Cross of Christ.  is there any pain and suffering that could ever surpass that which our Lord had to endure?  He could have passed on that chance, but it was an opportunity that the Father gave the Son to save us.  so that we, sinners, may overcome death and have eternal life.  it was an opportunity that He chose not to miss. 

whoever contemplates to die with dignity by ending life in his own terms is making a big mistake which can no longer corrected.  life is a gift from God, only He shall take it away; when He wills it and how He wills it.  and because it is a gift, we must own it to treasure and cherish.  not to throw it away.  otherwise, Jesus’ death on the Cross would be in vain.

when it’s our time to go, yes let it be with pride and honor and dignity.   no matter how and when.  and if our lives were full of love and compassion; of  faith and hope, then it would be so…  in God’s perfect time.

…comes another storm

“the Lord is my shepherd; i shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  yea, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and i will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:1-6

ondoy, pepeng and ramil are out.  the biopsy and bonescan results are in.  and so is another “storm” in our lives.  it’s called metastasis (local name – cancer).

prostate-biopsy
prostate biopsy

the day before that, on the CNN website, i had answered something like a quiz about how well do you know about cancer.  that was the first time i read about metastasis and briefly, what it meant.  so when my sister, ella, texted me that daddy’s prostatic tumor is malignant and that the results indicate metastatic neoplasma, i already knew.

it was no longer a surprise.  i’ve only seen a couple of photos taken of daddy.  that was in September, their 44th wedding anniversary and he had just gone out of the hospital.  it was kinda depressing to see how his health deteriorated so suddenly.  his physique was naturally lean.  so you could just imagine how really thin he’d become and how sad his eyes were, which convey the pain that he felt.  yes, that picture painted a thousand words.

there were already too many stories that were told about how cancer affects the lives of the ones afflicted and those who love them as well.  one can just imagine the suffering, the anguish, the sorrow and the hopelessness.  but when it hit close to home, the stories become real, and it feels like you’re hearing the stories for the very first time.

the first month that daddy had fallen ill and was told he may have tumor in the prostate, we were all in denial.  maybe there was some mistake.    the next phase for us was optimism.  maybe after the biopsy and the bonescan, the doctors will find that the tumor was only benign.  or perhaps, absolutely 100%  gone.  but no. it was malignant and the cancer cells had already spread. 

at this point, we’re trying to wake up from this nightmare.  but in the morning after, there should only be acceptance, because there is nothing that happens that God did not will it.  the good things and the bad.  the happy and the sad.  at the end of the day, we shall find comfort in the truth that all of us are destined, at a time that He appointed to leave this temporary abode where our physical beings dwell.

as we fight this one last battle for daddy,  we choose to see the beauty of life amidst the raging attack of cancer cells.  and while we are ready to accept daddy’s fate as an absolute surrender to the will of God, we still continue to hope and pray.

there can be miracles…if we believe.

invisible wall

“And He called the people to Him again and said to them ,”Hear me, all of you and understand:  there is nothing outside a man which by going into Him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him…  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”  Mark 4:14-15, 21-23

stone-walls-avila

there was this one gathering that we were invited to.  the notice was kind of impromptu so to speak.  it was already past my bedtime, but still we have to go,  if only because we have to drop our son off so he could spend time with his friends.  despite the other parents’ persistence over my mobile phone and bhoy’s subtle hints for me to get down from the car for a moment and say hi at least, i declined because i felt sick.  though as i look back, i am not sure now if it was for real or just imagined.  that was not the first time.  i have already excused myself on similar occasions many times before.  though at first, i thought i was able to get away with it.  but as i start to run out of excuses, i also began to question my motives.  maybe i’ve already pushed myself way deep into the abyss of extreme fear.  but what am i really scared of?

there were chapters in my life  when interactions with other people caused me so much pain.  intimate or otherwise, intentional or not, the memory would come and go, and would still hurt me as much.  subconsciously, as an instinct to defend myself from the probability of its recurrence, i built an invisible wall around me.  this wall provides a sense of security to know that nobody can no longer come in and hurt me again, unless i allow it.  so that if it happens again, it will be my entire fault because I let my guard down and let them sneak into my protected sanctuary and inflict pain on me… again. OUCH!

 sometimes it feels unfair to decline any invitation of friendship from new acquaintances, because that was when the hurting usually starts.  it is like cancer that slowly and silently ravages one single organ, and if it is no longer satisfied, moves to another, then another, until it spreads out to the whole system.  at that stage, no medications are effective enough to cure it.  and sadly, painkillers are just a moment’s comfort because they can no longer stop the pain entirely.  and that is worse than the disease itself.

 the wall that I built around me is selective.  my naive and vulnerable nature turns it into a sponge that absorbs any makahiyadisplay of kindness and gentleness.  and in an instant, it can turn into a “makahiya” which folds inward when touched or shaken.  it is an acquired instinct to over-protect myself now.  not only from predators lurking in the darker avenues, but warily from unfamiliar creatures which  disguise otherwise.

 call it instinct.  but sometimes it already seems like i’m just being paranoid.  and i really feel guilty after those excuses, because i know deep inside it is not fair.  especially to all who genuinely cares about me.  therefore i commit a grave injustice far greater than those who have hurt me.  not only am i depriving myself the warmth of human bonding, i also prevent others to get to know and understand me better.  instead, like a turtle who hides its head in its shell, i retreat into the innermost recesses of my solitude, because it is there that i feel safest.  or so i thought.

but truly, only God breaks down walls and opens new doors for natural order of things to find its course.  praise God for the power of His word.  for by His grace He made me realize that the madness that comes from without can do me no worse, than what i can do to myself.  and since i have no control of what’s to come,  i’ll be forever comforted by the reality that He will always protect me.

gods_embrace

harsh realities of life.  even our Lord Jesus Christ, in all His power and glory, was not spared because He loves us so much.  pain and suffering are part of what makes us better persons.  and they don’t even come close to what our Lord was made to endure.  He offered his life totally and unconditionally, and we partake in His suffering by enduring our own.  and maybe too, if i offered my own, by sharing my self to others regardless of any suffering that it might bring,  His suffering would not have been in vain. 

i just pray that one day soon, in the name of Christ Jesus, i would be able to put into action what the Lord had just made me realize.  and my invisible wall would finally disappear, together with the foundation of pain from which it was built upon.

the crosses and roses of Cory

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:6-8

the funeral mass for Corazon C. Aquino is now over.  the homily of  Rev. Catalino Arevalo S. J., Cory’s spiritual adviser, was simple yet profound.  part of it enumerated three distinct Cory attributes that are rarely inherent in one ordinary human being all together. 

1. her selflessness –  Cory always sought what was beneficial for others, always before her own self, her family even.  in her times of suffering, she would always think about them and what she could still do for them.

let us ask ourselves: how may times did we have the chance and the capability to help lola carry her heavy bags while she crosses the street, but did not?  because we are too focused on our timetable, that lifting a finger to help someone in need would be a waste of time.  how many times do we change our mobile phones in a year to be “in”, yet oblivious to the immediate needs of a relative who desperately needs financial support for immediate medical attention, because he can’t pay us back ?  or simply, how many times did we stop and look through a person’s eyes when we answer his questions?  are we always too self-indulged, that what we want to see are only ourselves? or we are just too selfish, we won’t respond at all.  are we too eager to go first in line, that we viciously sneak our way to the front, regardless whether those who came ahead of us honestly wait for their turn no matter how long it takes?   simple things that we could simply do, but we won’t.  even if we can.  because i, me, mine always comes first.  such selfishness.

2.  faith in God– Cory’s faith in God is so strong and powerful.  through all the episodes of her life, God was ever present.  God was truly a part of her everyday life, she attributed every moment of it as His will for her. she accepted each difficulty with resignation and each blessing with gratitude.  she was a Marian devotee, remembering always to pray the rosary.  she went to mass regularly, and she prayed without ceasing, always seeking the Lord in whatever circumstance.  as such, her faith is so overwhelming, it cannot be contained within her.  it burst into flickers of light to everyone who came close to her, until that flicker glowed into their own.  later will they realize that Cory had planted a mustard seed of faith in them, that grew as days go by that she lived by her example.  needless to say, everyone who came close to her or those who only see her on tv, now pray the rosary, and hear mass as often too. all because of Tita Cory.  imagine how many souls she had saved just by living a life of faith in God.

let’s ask ourselves:  how involved is God in our life? how many hours, minutes or perhaps seconds do we spend each day just thinking about him?  do we remember to thank him for little blessings like a beautiful sunny day or perhaps the smell of  roses? do we talk to God when we’re alone in the car and got caught in the traffic asking him to give us more patience?  do we tell him our innermost secrets? or ask his advise when we had to make an important decision in life? or do we remember Him only during calamities, misfortunes or sickness?  such a shame.

3.  her courage– Cory was only a woman, the weaker sex, or so they say.  but she has proven that gender has nothing to do with courage at all.  when Ninoy was arrested and eventually assassinated, she was left to raise five children.  that alone required much.  but lead a nation to stand up against a regime that has been in power for so long;  to survive seven coup attempts during her term; and to fight that last battle with colon cancer with such faith? indeed Cory was incredible and inspiring.  that was an understatement of course.   how great is Tita Cory, only a woman; but how remarkable and noteworthy that brave and grown men weep at her passing.   her courage was a gift that God gives only to those who deserve it.  and believe me, if heroism is defined by one’s courage and bravery, then indeed Cory Aquino is a hero.

let’s think about this:  we already knew that Tita Cory was deeply respected and admired as our icon of democracy.  but only in her death did we realize how much she is loved and will be missed by the Filipino nation.  all of us wish to be at least loved and missed at our own funerals.  maybe admired and looked up to, for those who seek power and recognition.  but are they as brave enough to fill in her shoes? to fight for the rights of the weak? to speak for those who can’t?  do they have enough courage to put God, country and family above themselves?  are they valiant enough to stand up for what is good, right and moral when all around them dictates otherwise? 

if each Filipino could only pick up bits and pieces of  lessons from her life and make them part of their own, what a beautiful nation this would be.  with little Tita Corys in each of us, how could we ever go wrong? for with that faith in God that she lived by, who can ever be against us?

thus was Corazon C. Aquino: a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, a public servant, a President, a hero, an icon, an inspiration, a pillar of strength, a gift from God, a Marian devotee, God’s loving daughter.  and her life – a picture of crosses and roses.  all together is a sweet blend that is Cory.  truly one of a kind.

cory-aquino2

her funeral procession is now over. she is gone forever.  but her legacy lives on.  and her selflessness, her courage and her faith in God… i pray would remain engraved in our hearts forever. 

 for the first time, i can now truly say i am proud to be Filipino.  because Cory taught me what it means to be one. 

Maraming Salamat, TITA CORY!

the curious case of Juan Dela Cruz

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead with our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”  Ephesians 2:4-5

 

Once there was a man named Juan.  He was born to a loving couple of honorable descent.  Though they were not nipa-hutrich, their family was well-provided for.  They lived in a nipa hut surrounded by luscious vegetation, alongside a cool and clear river teeming with fish on which they could feed on.  His parents raised farm animals as if they were family.  Every morning they wake up to a burst of golden sunshine with sweet music of birds tweeting.  And late at nights, they sleep on lullabies of crickets as glittering stars lit up the evening sky.  Such was the simple life of Juan.

 

He grew up to be a robust and fine, young gentleman.  His father and mother toiled the fields with hopeful joy as they dreamt of a bright future for their young boy.  They sent him to school determined that Juan would become an educated man whose future would be as bright as the mornings they woke up to.  And studied hard did Juan.  He was intelligent and hard-working, and soon enough, he finished his studies with honors.  Indeed, Juan was a very bright young man.

 

But something happened along the way that slowly ate up the essence of Juan.  His knowledge grew inversely proportional to his morals.  The once simple Juan learned just oh so much, that simplicity no longer satisfied him.  The pride that was born of his acquired knowledge became a curse.  His simple needs became grand. And as such, he mistakenly began to equate success with having more and wanting all that the world has to offer.

 

moneyOn this basis, he started his own family.  He married the richest girl he met, built a mansion, had a string of flings, and had numerous off springs, legitimate and otherwise.  This he accomplished as he raked money in, regardless of the means, business, politics, gambling; name it, he ventured in it.  The simple Juan became Don Juan.

 

But everything has its price.  And Juan was not ready to pay.  One day, Juan was stricken with cancer.  As his family tried to have him cured by the best doctors and medicine that money can buy, his precious mri1stash of money started to dwindle.  So did his properties.  And finally, even his so-called friends.  He was so desperate to get cured that even that valuable piece of land on which their nipa hut once stood, he contemplated to sell.  Poor Juan.  Even his children’s children were now burdened to pay all the debts that he eventually accumulated not only because of his illness, but from all the vices that he unmindfully busied himself with, while he was on a roll.  Poor, poor Juan. Nothing left but his frail body and a broken spirit.  Is there still hope for poor Juan? 

 

Kabayan, why then do we get this feeling that we already met Juan?  Is it because we all knew Juan from somewhere?  As a child, maybe we had played with him.  Or maybe, we were seatmates at school.  Or worked with him in his firm.  Maybe we were at his wedding, or his children’s birthday parties.  Maybe we were drinking buddies? or one of his flings  perhaps? Or probably we were his physician, who tried so hard to cure him but didn’t.  

 

How the story of Juan ended is really up to us.

Because Juan Dela Cruz is a myth.  But his story is real...

His full name is JUAN DELA CRUZ…

And his full life is the CROSS.

 

cross

Curiously, it is also our story whose ending shall depend on our sincere repentance and submission to the will of God in the remaining moments of our lives.